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Publisher's Summary

The Gnostic Gospels provides engaging listening for those seeking a broader perspective on the early development of Christianity. Author and noted scholar Elaine Pagels suggests that Christianity could have developed quite differently if Gnostic texts had become part of the Christian canon. Without a doubt: Gnosticism celebrates God as both Mother and Father, shows a very human Jesus' relationship to Mary Magdalene, suggests the Resurrection is better understood symbolically, and speaks to self-knowledge as the route to union with God. Pagels argues that Christian orthodoxy grew out of the political considerations of the day, serving to legitimize and consolidate early church leadership. Her contrast of that developing orthodoxy with Gnostic teachings presents an intriguing trajectory on a world faith as it "might have become".
©1979 Elaine Pagels; (P)2006 Random House, Inc. Random House Audio, a division of Random House, Inc.
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Critic Reviews

"The first major and eminently readable book on gnosticism benefiting from the discovery in 1945 of a collection of Gnostic Christian texts at Nag Hammadi in Egypt." (The New York Times Book Review)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By Laura on 05-19-06

The other side of Jesus

Interesting, enlightening and intense: the listener learns about another side of Jesus, one that encourages his disciples to find the truth within themselves.

The issues before the early church are discussed and you come to understand why the church rejected these gnostic teachings. They felt that Jesus intended to be accessible to more than an educated, elite few. That's hard to argue, but the idea of self-knowledge is also appealing, at least to me.

Dr Pagels refrains from editorializing, which I appreciated. She tells you what the manuscripts say, develops some of the concepts, and leaves it to you to decide what you believe.

This book is so packed with information that I think I would have preferred the printed form, so I could re-review particular passages. I also found the reader's voice to be rough and raspy, unlike Dr Pagel's voice which is smooth and pleasant (as seen on TV).

Overall, very worth the effort, and you'll probably want to listen to it more than once.

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30 of 32 people found this review helpful


By Colin on 02-27-07

A must-read

There is so much to know about Christ, the origins of the Christian faith, and how it turned out the way it has.
Unfortunately for a great many reasons the contents of these and probably many other texts have been hidden from the world for hundreds of years and its great to have these particular ones set out so well in their greater context.

This book introduces and suggests things that most Christians (or anyone for that matter) would never consider a possibility, enhances many pieces of understanding and severely challenges others.
There's no new religion here, but the one you had is supplied with some interesting additions!

Dr Pagels' extensive subject knowledge of the texts of the Nag Hammadi library as well as other historical, political and religious sources, brings up some key questions and facts, attempts to answer them in light of a far wider body of evidence and leaves the reader wanting to continue the study...
Which is possibly the best thing a book like this can do

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21 of 23 people found this review helpful

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